WBEZ | City Hall http://www.wbez.org/tags/city-hall Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago Public Schools to get TIF surplus, but impact for schools unclear http://www.wbez.org/news/economy/chicago-public-schools-get-tif-surplus-impact-schools-unclear-109137 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/artworks-000062567170-td8plg-t500x500.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Chicago schools are in line to get a small infusion of cash from City Hall that parents and activists say could help offset significant school budget cuts made over the summer.</p><p dir="ltr">But it remains unclear how much individual schools will see.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he planned to again declare a more than $49 million surplus on money sitting in the city&rsquo;s 151 tax-increment financing (TIF) accounts. A TIF surplus would be distributed to the city&rsquo;s taxing bodies according to state law, with about half of the total amount going to Chicago Public Schools.</p><p dir="ltr">Chicago&rsquo;s massive network of TIF districts is expected to reap nearly $376 million next year. In a TIF district, any increase in property tax revenue caused by an increase in property values is funneled into a special fund designated for economic development projects. That means revenue growth is diverted away from local taxing bodies, though unused surplus money is supposed to be returned to them at the end of each year.</p><p dir="ltr">Currently, the mayor&rsquo;s administration decides how much money to surplus, and the City Council must sign off on the declaration. However, some independent aldermen want to change that.</p><p dir="ltr">At Wednesday&rsquo;s City Council meeting, members of the Progressive Caucus say they plan to invoke a procedural move to bring an alternative proposal on TIF surpluses to the council floor for debate and a vote.</p><p dir="ltr">Their ordinance, which has been bottled up in a committee for months and prevented from going before the full council, would would automatically trigger a surplus declaration from TIFs that took in more than $1 million last year. Members of the caucus say the ordinance would generate a larger surplus than Emanuel is proposing.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>How much money is tied up in TIFs?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">There are currently 151 TIF districts in the city of Chicago that collectively have about $1.7 billion to use toward economic development. Of that, about $1.53 billion is &ldquo;encumbered&rdquo; - that is, tied up with current projects - according to Alex Holt, the city&rsquo;s budget director.</p><p dir="ltr">That leaves about $170 million to $180 million that could potentially be released as surplus back to city agencies, Holt said. But, as she explained to WBEZ last week, the city sees a need to do some additional subtraction, leaving a projected $49 million surplus for 2014. Here&rsquo;s the city&rsquo;s math:</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">$40 million next year goes toward paying down bonds for the Modern School Across Chicago program, a massive school building effort, and can&rsquo;t be surplused</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">$35.1 million is subtracted for TIFs that have had no revenue or may have declining revenue</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">$11 million remains in TIFs that have balances of less than $1 million</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">$37 million is reserved for single-project TIFs and future obligations</p></li></ul><p dir="ltr">After that, the city is left with about $49 million in unused TIF money to surplus, Holt said. The public schools would get about $24 million in additional revenue. On Friday, Emanuel signed an executive order that will annually declare at least 25 percent of unused TIF money as a surplus.</p><p dir="ltr">CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said in an e-mail that the district has not yet determined where it would spend the additional revenue. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Schools do benefit from TIF money through new construction and capital upgrades. The mayor&rsquo;s budget office says 35 percent of TIF spending in 2014 will go to school capital projects. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">WBEZ &nbsp;has repeatedly requested a breakdown of all current TIF-funded projects, but CPS has not yet provided it.</p><p dir="ltr">However, in a string of recent press conferences, Mayor Emanuel has announced a handful of new school buildings and additions&mdash;some at the city&rsquo;s most affluent and selective schools&mdash;which will be funded with either TIF money and state construction grants.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Long-term solution or quick fix?</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The administration has been saying TIF money is not a panacea for the district&rsquo;s budget problems. CPS faces a structural deficit driven largely by jumps in required pension payments after years of neglecting to adequately fund its pension system.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Even with...the surplus that some people have called for, those things don&rsquo;t begin to plug the budget gap that either the CPS or city have been seeing,&rdquo; Holt said. &ldquo;When you look at CPS with a billion dollars&rsquo; worth of budget gap that they&rsquo;ve had to address, the dollar amounts are really just too small to accomplish that.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But for parents and activists, every dollar counts. Kate Bolduc sits on the local school council at Blaine Elementary and is the co-founder of a coalition of local school councils advocating for adequate funding from CPS.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We understand that it&rsquo;s only a short term solution but we&rsquo;ll take it,&rdquo; Bolduc said. &ldquo;We need it. We have students who are sitting in classes that are way too large. We have students missing out on technology, foreign language, music. Every dollar counts.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Bolduc said if a TIF surplus is declared and distributed directly to schools, it could have an significant and immediate impact.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;If you do the math and you take $25 million divided by 400,000 students, we&rsquo;re looking at about $62 per student,&rdquo; Bolduc said. &ldquo;At Blaine, we have about 950 students, so Blaine would see maybe $60,000. That&rsquo;s a teaching position for us. So that&rsquo;s no small amount.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Experts say the fact parents and activists look to the TIF surplus and other TIF reforms speaks to how massive and unwieldy Chicago&rsquo;s TIF program is.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve created a monster in some ways,&rdquo; said Rachel Weber, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who studied TIFs extensively and sat on Emanuel&rsquo;s TIF Task Force a couple of years ago.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;This program that started off as kind of an obscure way to fund specific kinds of economic development has become a general redevelopment tool, and anybody and everybody who&rsquo;s doing anything and wants some money is now looking to TIFs instead of just looking to the city to help them.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Becky Vevea is a producer for WBEZ and covers education. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>. Alex Keefe is WBEZ&rsquo;s political reporter. Follow him at <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">@WBEZpolitics</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 12 Nov 2013 15:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/economy/chicago-public-schools-get-tif-surplus-impact-schools-unclear-109137 Chicago aldermen agree to water down tough gun law http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-aldermen-agree-water-down-tough-gun-law-108636 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS3683_Chicago City Hall_Flickr_Mason.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A Chicago City Council committee Monday passed changes to the city&rsquo;s handgun laws to make way for concealed carry in Illinois.</p><p>There wasn&rsquo;t much debating the pages of changes to the long-standing, strict gun laws -- just a bit of grumbling from some members of the Public Safety Committee over giving up some legislative powers to Springfield.</p><p>State lawmakers passed a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-lawmakers-override-quinn-enact-concealed-carry-law-107994">concealed carry law this summer</a>, making Illinois the last state in the nation to allow public possession of concealed guns. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn attempted an amendatory veto of the bill, adding provisions that kept guns out of businesses that serve alcohol, and that required places that allowed guns to post signs saying so, among others. Both chambers voted in July to override his changes.</p><p>If the revised gun laws pass the full city council, licensed owners won&rsquo;t have to register their guns with the city anymore, and they won&rsquo;t be required to obtain city permits. Aldermen also signed off on additional penalties for anyone who violates gun laws within 100 feet of any Chicago Transit Authority bus stop or train station.</p><p>National Rifle Association lobbyist Todd Vandermyde said he&rsquo;s pleased with the changes, for the most part.</p><p>&ldquo;What they did was - Mayor Daley&rsquo;s pinnacle handgun ordinance after the loss of the McDonald decision is now for all intents and purposes gutted,&rdquo; Vandermyde said. &ldquo;And I think that&rsquo;s a great day for gun owners in the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois.</p><p>In 2010, Mayor Richard M Daley pushed strict gun restrictions through the City Council, just days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the city&rsquo;s ban on handgun ownership through <a href="http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/mcdonald-v-city-of-chicago/">McDonald v City of Chicago.</a></p><p>Vandermyde said he has a few hangups with the law. For example, the revised city ordinance would still require households with minors to lock up their guns, with a trigger lock or otherwise. Vandermyde said decisions on appropriate gun-safety measures should be left up to family members.</p><p>The city council has picked up a number of concealed carry-related issues since returning from their summer break. The Finance Committee Friday passed a measure sponsored by Ald. Ed Burke (14) that would ban guns in businesses that serve alcohol. The NRA says the measure could bring on some legal challenges. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has thrown his support behind the proposal, and his office says they&rsquo;d support aldermen with any &ldquo;legal or implementation issues&rdquo; that arise.</p><p>The City Council is expected to vote on both measures Wednesday.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ producer/reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 09 Sep 2013 15:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-aldermen-agree-water-down-tough-gun-law-108636 Who was 25-year-old Rahm Emanuel? http://www.wbez.org/series/year-25/who-was-25-year-old-rahm-emanuel-108327 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rahm25yo.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">As mayor of the city of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s days are anything but repetitive.</p><p dir="ltr">Some days, he crisscrosses the city for press conferences, packing in <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/midterm-emanuel-still-cozy-city-council-107199">phone calls to aldermen</a> and business leaders on the way.</p><p dir="ltr">Other days, he&rsquo;s in meetings at City Hall, talking Wrigley renovations or budget fixes, or maybe even calling President Barack Obama to talk over top issues, and who knows what else.</p><p dir="ltr">He&rsquo;s known to try to squeeze in a <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324564704578626070625333886.html">workout</a> wherever he can, and sometimes, he commutes to work on the <a href="http://redeyechicago.tumblr.com/post/57525285278/our-mayor-really-gets-around">train </a>to mix things up a bit.</p><p>But 25-year-old Emanuel nailed down a pattern and stuck to it.</p><p>The year was 1984. Emanuel lived in Lakeview, near Waveland and Southport, in an old house converted into four apartments. He distinctly remembers his neighbors from that house: Emanuel was a graduate student at Northwestern University then, and would take the L back and forth to class every day.</p><p>As he recalls, there was just one restaurant by the Southport train station: a pizza place that sold pies by the slice.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;d get off the train after school, get dinner, which was a slice of pizza, eat it walking home, and sit down and do my homework,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;Is that pathetic?&rdquo;</p><p>Emanuel&rsquo;s two-bedroom apartment was on the second floor of the house. His rent: $330. And that included utilities.</p><p>&ldquo;You couldn&rsquo;t touch a parking space for $330 there today,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>His classes were at <a href="http://www.northwestern.edu/magazine/spring2012/feature/in-your-face-sidebar/rahms-grad-school-days-at-northwestern.html">Northwestern</a>&rsquo;s School of Speech and Communications, where he studied mass communications and classical rhetorical theory.</p><p>Emanuel squeezed the master&rsquo;s program into nine months.</p><p>&ldquo;It was basically I wanted to do mental gymnastics for a year, &rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;When I had graduated [from undergrad] and started working, I was not done enjoying the life of the mind, so to say.&rdquo;</p><p>The mayor said 25 marked a critical point. He always knew he wanted to go to graduate school, but that year he realized it was now or never.</p><p>When he wasn&rsquo;t debating about Aristotle or Cicero, Emanuel dabbled in political work. He spent some of that year at the Illinois Public Action Council. He was also in the throes of then-Congressman Paul Simon&rsquo;s campaign for a U.S. Senate seat, where he worked alongside people like Lisa Madigan, David Axelrod and Forrest Claypool, to name a few.</p><p>And yes, he was still <a href="http://www.joffrey.org/node/2854">dancing </a>when he was 25 years old. Twice a week.</p><p>Emanuel was a serious dancer in his youth, even earning a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet. He passed it up to go to Sarah Lawrence. He says once the pressure was off to dance professionally, he wanted to get back to it.</p><p>Dance, Emanuel says, was important for discipline, as well as exercise.</p><p>But come on, besides all that, he must have been doing some socializing and dating as a twenty-something, right?</p><p>Emanuel says he&rsquo;ll keep most of those stories under wraps, but that his 25-year-old self was very much in the mindset of: &ldquo;I&rsquo;m gonna be single for the rest of my life.&rdquo;</p><p>There was one woman he dated that year. Emanuel says the relationship ended when she decided to move to Washington, D.C. for a job, and he wanted to stay in Chicago.</p><p>But amid all the pizza, Aristotle, politics and ballet, Emanuel&rsquo;s sights were already set on Washington.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m going to finish Northwestern,&rdquo; Emanuel said was the goal. &ldquo;And I&rsquo;m going to try and figure out how to one day work for a person who&rsquo;s going to be elected president.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Lauren Chooljian is WBEZ&rsquo;s Morning Producer/Reporter. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda"> </a><a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 07 Aug 2013 16:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/year-25/who-was-25-year-old-rahm-emanuel-108327 Latino aldermen want city council to halt deportations http://www.wbez.org/news/latino-aldermen-want-city-council-halt-deportations-108171 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Deportation_130724_yp.JPG" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">The group wants city council to approve a resolution asking President Barack Obama to stop deporting undocumented immigrants. They say it destroys families.</p><p>Ald. Danny Solis (25th), who represents the largely Latino community of Pilsen said he worries the separation often negatively affects children.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I have gone to many of my schools, talked to the principals of our schools. And they talk about the problem of counseling,&rdquo; said Alderman Danny Solis.</p><p>Alderman George Cardenas (12th) says he wants that message sent to the White House.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;This country is based on democratic values and we must uphold these values. And that&rsquo;s the message to Mr. President Obama,&rdquo; said Cardenas.</p><p>According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Obama administration has deported more than 1.9 million people since 2008. The resolution was referred to the city council&rsquo;s Committee on Human Relations. It&rsquo;s set for a public hearing at a future date.</p><p><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Yolanda Perdomo is a WBEZ host and producer. Follow her </span><a href="http://www.twitter.com/yolandanews" style="text-decoration: none;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(17, 85, 204); font-style: italic; text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">@yolandanews</span></a><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">.</span></p></p> Wed, 24 Jul 2013 15:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/latino-aldermen-want-city-council-halt-deportations-108171 Rep. Mell appointed to father's city council seat http://www.wbez.org/news/rep-mell-appointed-fathers-city-council-seat-108162 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/debmell.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has chosen State Representative Deb Mell to succeed the 33rd ward seat held for decades by her father, Dick Mell. Mell resigned her state post early Wednesday morning, and was later confirmed by the City Council.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m just trying to take it in,&rdquo; Mell told the council. &ldquo;I didn&rsquo;t get much sleep last night, and I love my area. I don&rsquo;t think anyone who knows me [questions] that, and how much passion I have for the people of the 33rd ward and how hard I&rsquo;m gonna work on their behalf.&rdquo;</p><p>The announcement was not a surprise - Mell&rsquo;s name had been rumored to be the choice out of the 12 people vying for the spot. Mayor Emanuel had said Mell&rsquo;s last name and familial ties would neither work for her or against her in the selection process. The mayor lauded Mell Wednesday for &ldquo;breaking glass ceilings&rdquo; for being the first openly lesbian member of the City Council.</p><p>Most of the City Council joined the mayor in his praise, some of them even highlighting family ties as a blessing, instead of criticizing the choice as nepotism.</p><p>As Ald. Michael Zalewski (23rd) put it: &ldquo;it&rsquo;s just the way life is.&rdquo; Zalewski&rsquo;s son serves as a state representative in Illinois.&nbsp;</p><p>Ever the historian, Ald. Ed Burke even spouted off all the family connections in the City Council&rsquo;s history, including his own, adding that he couldn&rsquo;t think of anything that would &ldquo;make someone more proud than to succeed their parent in an office that that parent had held.&rdquo;</p><p>The lone &ldquo;no&rdquo; vote in the council came from Ald. Bob Fioretti (2).</p><p>&ldquo;I do know Deb Mell, and I like Deb Mell. And I like what she stands for. But we are not a monarchy, we are a democracy, so let&rsquo;s start acting like it,&rdquo; Fioretti said.</p><p>Fioretti later added that his vote wasn&rsquo;t cast against Deb Mell as an individual, but rather was a vote against the process.</p><p>Mell responded to the criticism as soon as she took the floor.</p><p>&ldquo;That just makes me work even harder, and I have something to prove,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;And you will not question my passion and hard work on behalf of the 33rd ward.&rdquo;</p><p>Deb Mell&rsquo;s father and sister, Patti Blagojevich, were both in attendance for the swearing-in. Dick Mell told reporters he didn&rsquo;t give his daughter any advice on her new position, and it was &ldquo;her ballgame now.&rdquo;</p><p>Mell added there were some things he would miss about being an alderman, saying there was no other position like it out there, but said time had passed him by.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t tweet, I don&rsquo;t have Facebook, I don&rsquo;t email very well, I do text a little bit,&ldquo; he said. &nbsp;&ldquo;And when I get stacks of emails from constituents and I try to call them back and I get their voicemails, that&rsquo;s what I miss. I miss that one on one conversation with the person who&rsquo;s got the problem.&rdquo;</p><p>As if a sign of the changing tide, shortly after Deb Mell had been sworn in by the City Council, the <a href="http://33rdward.org/">33rd ward website</a> was swiftly changed to showcase a picture of her face.</p><p>Dick Mell won&rsquo;t be drifting too far away from the political spectrum. He still holds the powerful Democratic Committeeman seat, a position that gives him a weighted vote for his daughter&rsquo;s successor in Springfield. Mell wouldn&rsquo;t say if he had any favorites, telling reporters only that there were &ldquo;many candidates.&rdquo;</p><p>Deb Mell said she officially resigned from her state post Wednesday morning, and would be out in the 33rd ward as soon as Wednesday evening, meeting her new constituents.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ web producer. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian&nbsp;</a></em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F102454479" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 24 Jul 2013 08:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/rep-mell-appointed-fathers-city-council-seat-108162 With no rules of the road, Chicago’s pedicabs thrive http://www.wbez.org/news/no-rules-road-chicago%E2%80%99s-pedicabs-thrive-106557 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 8.37.11 AM.png" alt="" /><p><p>As winter slowly melts into spring, you&#39;ll see them around Chicago with greater frequency. Hanging around after Bulls games and theater performances, armed with heated blankets and bicycle bells. More than a few showed up outside Wrigley Field at the Cubs home opener on Monday. With warm weather on the way, not to mention baseball games and endless music festivals, Chicago&rsquo;s pedicabs are ready to take over the streets again.</p><p>The giant tricycles with room for two in the back, have become a fixture in Chicago over the last few summers. It&rsquo;s not just the flat terrain and lazy tourists. Unlike other major metropolises, Chicago has yet to pass any ordinance regulating pedicabs. That means there are no rules on the books about where they can go, what they can charge, or how to make them safe.</p><p>Those non-existent rules are a mixed bag according to the pedicabbers themselves. Some worry it could lead to lax safety standards and inconsistent fare pricing, which only hurts their reputation. Yet that same freedom from regulation, others argue, is why the industry is doing so well in Chicago.</p><p>To learn what this means for pedicabs and passengers alike, I decided to go for a ride. Darren Hilton, who has been a bike messenger and pedicab driver for fifteen years, picked me up one recent afternoon in his yellow pedicab at Navy Pier. Except, he couldn&rsquo;t actually pick me up on the pier where WBEZ is located. Apparently, pedicabs aren&rsquo;t allowed there according to the Chicago Parks District. It&rsquo;s one of the few hard and fast rules for pedicabs in Chicago.</p><p>Darren, who has long dreads, and wore a black silk shirt with a red dragon on the back, knows those rules (or lack thereof) better than most. He also has a keen appreciation for his pedicabs&rsquo; origins.</p><p>&ldquo;I like rickshaw, because of the ethnic connotation,&rdquo; Darren told me, &ldquo;Rickshaw is Japanese from jinrikisha which means human power. So a ballpoint pen is a jinrikisha. A hairbrush is a jinrikisha. Human powered.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>My human-powered transportation first headed north toward Water Tower Place and the Magnificent Mile, a typical route for the tourists who make up the majority of the pedicab driver&rsquo;s customer base. Pedicabs are perfect for short distance trips, like moving party goers from bar to bar. But Darren has hopes that one day, pedicabs will be seen less as a tourist activity and more as a viable industry. But for that to happen, he says, there have to be regulations, especially when it comes to price.</p><p>Because there are no rules regulating what pedicab drivers can charge, it&rsquo;s much easier to gouge prices in Chicago than in other cities. Pedicabbers who live in the city say some out-of-towners come to Chicago&nbsp; for the summer months and charge exorbitant prices and give the industry a bad name. And even well-meaning drivers say their rates can change based on weather, terrain, and the weight of the load - not to mention, how much they like the customer. In New York, pedicabbers charge by the minute. Darren says having regulations in place would help make the industry more reliable, and therefore more vibrant.</p><p>Chicago has had two shots at a pedicab ordinance before, neither of which made it through City Council. The biggest point of contention for the pro-pedicab interests was a restriction that would prevent pedicabs from operating in the Loop during rush hour. Some say the cabs contribute to gridlock, but Darren says especially with the help of protected bike lanes, pedicabs actually move faster than cars and can help commuters get to their destination more directly. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s all about maneuverability,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>But as we headed south over the Michigan Avenue bridge, where honking cars and speeding busses grew increasingly closer, I asked Darren how he was sure that we were safe.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not been an industry that&rsquo;s been as internally regulated as it could have been,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;As a customer, you don&rsquo;t know the difference between something that looks sound, and something that is.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Most garages that rent pedicabs require insurance that protects passengers, but it&rsquo;s not mandated citywide, and the drivers are rarely protected. Darren says he&rsquo;s only ever heard of one pedicab injury in which a car was involved, and the Chicago Police Department say they don&rsquo;t keep a record of pedicab related accidents.</p><p>The police and pedicabbers primarily interact &mdash; and clash &mdash; over traffic laws. There are a lot of laws that are hard to enforce for pedicabs, which tends to make for fractious relationships, says Darren. &ldquo;They just make it up. They&rsquo;re not bad guys, but there&rsquo;s no book. That&rsquo;s the thing. And they&rsquo;re responsible for their beat. But they can&rsquo;t enforce something that just doesn&rsquo;t exist.&rdquo;</p><p>Natalie Moberg is a bike messenger and pedicab driver who loves the freedom of being an independent contractor. During the summer, she and her fellow cab drivers make most of their money picking up Cubs fans after games at Wrigley Field.</p><p>&ldquo;Most officers like us. We get&nbsp; the drunk people out of the stadium area. We get &lsquo;em gone,&rdquo; says Moberg.</p><p>But one day last August, Natalie learned what happens when the rules are left up in the air. She says she was waiting with other pedicabbers outside Wrigley Field, when a police officer drove up and confronted them.</p><p>&ldquo;Officer Healy drives up, he gets out of his vehicle and says we can&rsquo;t be on the street there, and I say, well, where would you like us to go, and he says, on the sidewalk.&rdquo;</p><p>Natalie says that didn&rsquo;t make any sense, since not even bicycles are allowed on sidewalks.</p><p>&ldquo;So, he&rsquo;s starts spouting out how like it&rsquo;s all listed at the police station and I interrupted him and, I asked wait wait, there&rsquo;s regulations? There&rsquo;s no regulations in the city of Chicago.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Natalie says that, although she was arrested, the charges were dropped when the officer failed to appear in court. The judge, she added, was confused about whether it was a car or a bike that had been impounded. Natalie is waiting until she gets a drivers license to return to pedicabbing, which is something the garage she leases from wants her to have for insurance purposes.</p><p>Despite her run-in with the cops, Natalie isn&rsquo;t ready to support certain regulations. &ldquo;I think that would kill the spirit of the industry in Chicago. We&rsquo;re the Wild West, and overall,&rdquo; she says, &ldquo;it seems like more of a headache.&rdquo;</p><p>But Chicago transit experts say, while regulations might be a pain, they&rsquo;re important to help build a diverse transit system in which people have options for how to get around. Joe Schwietermann, director of the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul, says pedicabs are, &ldquo;part of the explosion of innovation we&#39;re seeing in transportation, a lot of creative solutions to get people around.&rdquo; He says pedicabs are an especially promising solution for traveling short-to-medium distances in dense urban environments.</p><p>But Schwietermann also has concerns about over-regulating the budding pedicab industry.</p><p>&quot;It&rsquo;s interesting how when things sound really good in Chicago you put it in the meat grinder of city hall, and something else come out,&quot; he says, &quot;and I think that&rsquo;s the big risk here.&rdquo;</p><p>Schwietermann points to last year&rsquo;s food truck ordinance as an example. He believes the City Council&#39;s regulations for mobile food vendors were too strict and thus hurt the growth of an industry that has flourished in other cities. (Check out WBEZ&#39;s coverage of the food truck regulations <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/are-new-regulations-helping-or-hurting-city%E2%80%99s-food-truck-industry-105265" target="_blank">here</a>.)</p><p>As for the pedicabs, City Hall says there are a number of interested parties &mdash; pedicab garage owners, motor vehicle cab owners, aldermen, and more &mdash; at work on an ordinance, but nobody could say for sure what it might include, or when it will be announced. So for now, pedicabbers like Darren Hilton are making it up as they go along.</p><p>&quot;We&rsquo;re not bad people, we&rsquo;re young. We&rsquo;re 5 year-old dictators. Whatever we say goes. We don&rsquo;t realize the repercussions of our actions,&quot; Darren says. But in terms of building a long-term, stable industry with a reputation as fair business operators, he adds, &quot;It always comes back to us, whatever we&rsquo;ve done.&quot;</p><p>As we headed back toward Navy Pier from Ogilvie Station, we breezed by cars and taxi cabs stuck in rush hour traffic, most of whom were presumably trying to get onto trains and out of the city. Darren says it&#39;s a prime example of a profitable niche that pedicabs could fill.</p><p>&quot;All these people you see right here are potential customers, but the cabs are full. You can&rsquo;t get a cab coming this way. And then if you get in a cab, you&rsquo;re sitting there,&quot; he says. &quot;It&rsquo;s not the same as being where you want to be. You need maneuverability.&quot;</p><p>If some of the aldermen who want to restrict Darren&#39;s ability to do business in the Loop during rush hour and in other areas of the city succeed, however, that maneuverability is going to be seriously restricted. As we rolled up to Navy Pier, I realized just how big a change that would be for the city&#39;s rickshaw cowboys.</p><p>&quot;Now this is like halfway legal in a manner of speaking,&quot; said Darren, as he tried to sneak me down the pier to the front door of WBEZ. But just as he spoke, a security guard blocked our path and turned us back around with a stern warning: &quot;These carts are not allowed!&quot;</p><p>Sooner or later, there will probably be no such thing as &lsquo;halfway legal&rsquo; for the pedicabbers of Chicago &mdash; only legal and illegal. Whether the industry can thrive, or just survive, remains to be seen.</p></p> Tue, 09 Apr 2013 08:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/no-rules-road-chicago%E2%80%99s-pedicabs-thrive-106557 $12M renovation planned for Chicago City Hall http://www.wbez.org/news/12m-renovation-planned-chicago-city-hall-104227 <p><p>A $12 million renovation plan is in the works for Chicago&#39;s century-old City Hall.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel&#39;s office on Thursday announced a plan to rehab the building and reorganize the city office space by the end of 2013.</p><p>Emanuel&#39;s office says the plan will save the city $4 million each year, so the costs will be recouped in three years.</p><p>The city is currently leasing space in another building for several agencies, including the departments of Housing, Finance and Law. The plan includes consolidating those departments into city-owned offices to save the more than $4.4 million spent each year to lease the other space.</p><p>The mayor&#39;s office says the renovations at City Hall will be designed to get the building certified under the U.S. Green Building Council&#39;s LEED program.</p></p> Thu, 06 Dec 2012 08:34:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/12m-renovation-planned-chicago-city-hall-104227 Chicago aldermen want crack down on City Hall gallery outbursts http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-aldermen-want-crack-down-city-hall-gallery-outbursts-96494 <p><p>Booing could soon be banned at Chicago City Council.</p><p>Under a new ordinance endorsed by four high-ranking Chicago aldermen, "no demonstration of approval or disapproval from members of the public shall be permitted within the City Council Chambers, including, but not limited to cheering, yelling, clapping, foot stomping, whistling, booing, or jeering."</p><p>The measure, which is signed by Ald. Ed Burke, Ald. Ray Suarez, Ald. Richard Mell and Ald. Carrie Austin, would also give city council the power to "clear" the chamber should that ordinance be violated.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Thursday the city's lawyers are looking into the proposal.</p><p>"People have a right to have their voices heard," Emanuel said. "Also, we have business to conduct, and we'll balance those two so people have the first amendment right."</p><p>The ordinance would also ban "signs, placards, banners, or posters" in the chamber except those approved prior to council meetings.</p><p>A spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois calls the proposed ordinance, "troubling."</p><p>In a statement, Burke said the proposal was "introduced as a courtesy in response to a suggestion by the Sergeant-at-Arms and should make for a lively discussion."</p></p> Fri, 17 Feb 2012 00:27:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-aldermen-want-crack-down-city-hall-gallery-outbursts-96494 Chicago aims to crack down on City Hall debtors http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-aims-crack-down-city-hall-debtors-96414 <p><p>Chicago City Council is scheduled to vote Wednesday on an ordinance that would automatically deduct outstanding debts from Illinoisans' state income tax returns.</p><p>The city estimates nearly 100,000 state residents and businesses have unpaid city parking tickets, red light camera citations and administrative hearing fees, among other fines. It says passing the ordinance could bring in between $8 and $20 million or the cash-strapped city.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanel supported the plan on Tuesday at an urelated press conference.</p><p>"I'm actually leveling the playing field so it doesn't tilt in favor those who cheat and cheat other taxpayers," said Emanuel.</p><p>The mayor's office said the proposed measure would only apply to scofflaws who'd been repeatedly warned about outstanding fines.</p><p>The Illinois General Assembly recently passed a law that allows cities to enact this kind of ordinance to recover money.</p></p> Wed, 15 Feb 2012 00:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-aims-crack-down-city-hall-debtors-96414 City Council anticipating ward map compromise--and parliamentary maneuvers http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-19/city-council-anticipating-ward-map-compromise-and-parliamentary-maneuver <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2012-January/2012-01-19/Hearing1.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The remap of Chicago's 50 wards was not quite a done deal. The Chicago <a href="http://www.chicityclerk.com/" target="_blank">City Council</a>'s rules committee met Thursday morning and they were expected to pass a compromise map. However, it may not get past the full City Council Thursday because at least two aldermen plan to delay a vote with a parliamentary procedure called a, "defer and publish." WBEZ's reporter Sam Hudzik joined <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> from City Hall and WBEZ's <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-ward-remap-hearing-draws-thin-crowd-95639">Chip Mitchell</a> joined the show from WBEZ's West Side bureau, near where a public hearing on the map was held Wednesday night. Then, former alderman Helen Shiller (46<sup>th</sup>) related her experience of having to go through the process of remaps after the 1990 and 2000 censuses.</p></p> Thu, 19 Jan 2012 14:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-19/city-council-anticipating-ward-map-compromise-and-parliamentary-maneuver